So you want to start therapy to work on communication with your partner, child, or family member. Surely learning the best practices of communication will help to change the constant bickering, the raised voices, the accusations, the misunderstandings, the blaming, the defensiveness...Can you tell I hear a lot? Indeed, I do, and here's some bad news for you, communication skills are not enough. Sure, they are effective when you are in control of your emotions, but let's be honest, often we get triggered by the people who matter most. How does that happen? You may not be so sure, but often it happens rather automatically and rapidly. And then you're off to the races...another argument, another round of apologies or withdrawing to lick your wounds, another promise that you each will do better...If only you had these communication skills!
You can learn communication skills from a book; you don't need a therapist. But that's not enough in many cases if you find your relationship stuck on a sort of repeat...new content, same types of arguments.
What you likely need professional help with is getting to the root cause of the challenges in your relationship in order to start communicating from the heart. To stop the cycle of ineffective communication and learn about the real deal issues, not the surface content (the dishwasher, the spending, the kids, work, the endless list of grievances are not the real issue), a therapist can help the couple or family get out of their repetitive cycle. A skilled therapist will facilitate the space to speak to the fears and vulnerabilities and hurts that lead to explosive or unkind conversations, in order to begin to have true understanding. While this is certainly communication, it is not the type that comes with rules from a book. It's deeper and impactful and more resistant to the automatic pull into old arguing habits. This sort of communication creates trust, bonding, and confidence in the relationship.
Another problem with knowing the "rules" of communication is that the rules all fly out the window when each person becomes flooded with emotion or overcome by anger, fear, sadness or some other strong emotion. No one follows the rules in those times; the deeper emotions that are fueling the anger and anxiety must be unearthed in order for each person to feel heard and for true understanding and relational transformation to happen. Now this will lead to effective communication, connection, trust, and peace in your relationship. It's challenging work at first, but it is possible to get unstuck from the cycle of arguing, to learn to communicate in a way that your partner can hear and understand. It takes some practice and a skillful guide, not a list of communication skills.
About the author: Melissa Hudson, Ph.D.(c) is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas specializing in couples and marriage therapy, anxiety disorders, and depression. She also works with adults and families on a full spectrum of psychological concerns. Have questions? Want to stop fighting and connect with your partner? Give me a shout! ! firstname.lastname@example.org | 214-235-8175 | www.counselingsolutionstexas.com